Dr. Rishi Kumar Tiwari, PRO-Indian Library Association and CEO-Bimtech Foundation has helped India’s library mission by establishing 25 libraries (10 Libraries in Villages/Ashram, 3 Toy Libraries, 11 Jail Libraries including one library in women Jail and 1 Library at a Metro Station). All the libraries established by RSSWLD have been making a deep impact on the lives of the people. Rusen Kumar, India CSR Network talked Dr. Rishi Tiwari in detail on various interventions on recent library mission and his contribution. Excerpts:
What is the purpose of Library in Jails movement?
Jail library can be of great use for the inmates who want to continue their education. Inmates can continue their education by enrolling themselves in the correspondence courses and a well-equipped library can support their studies by having an adequate amount of learning resources. Many examples are there in history where inmates have even got a Doctoral degree while living in a prison. In addition to the formal education, inmates can also learn any vocational skills which would enable them to earn money once they are released from jail. They can learn and earn while they are in prison itself. Libraries can have reading material for learning vocational skills like Agriculture, Canning, Carpentry, Tailoring, Weaving/Knitting, Soap & Phenyl making, Handloom and many more. Libraries can also have the simulation videos, video lectures or podcasts for learning the skills.
Access to libraries can also provide strength to the inmates to face the difficult circumstances of prisons. They can consider libraries as a place where they can spend their free time productively and ultimately it will help in their rehabilitation. Browsing through the books is only one aspect. A prison library is much more than a place of silence, solitary self-scanning, rather it is a place where books bring like-minded people together. It may provide a space for inmates to meet with others with common interests. Programs like book clubs and community service projects can help the inmates to improve their social skills. It can be rightly said Prison libraries “more than just libraries” but they are actually cultural “community” centres. Exchange of ideas will definitely lead to the change of Mindset of the inmates. Libraries of the Prison can also play the role of a councillor for the inmates. They can lay down a positive impact in the lives of the prisoners by providing the collection which can help the inmates to solve their psychological and behavioural problems.
In this way, the prison library can become an important hub to support the education, recreation and rehabilitation of the inmates. Prison library service is an extraordinary service which needs more attention, resources and planned development.
You have an experience of almost a decade on Library mission. Do you find any relationship between illiteracy and crime?
Yes definitely, there is a strong relationship between illiteracy and crime If we ltalk about the jails of UP only as per the data of 15th edition of the ‘Prison Statistics in India’ compiled by National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India in 2015, among the states of India maximum number of prisoners are imprisoned in the jails of UP amounting to 88,747 of which 85,214 are Male and 3,533 are Female. Out of total inmates, 26327 (29.66%) are illiterate and 33054 are educated upto Class X only. 19246 are having the education of above Class 10th but below graduation. The number of graduate inmates is 7006 and post graduate is 2388. It can be concluded that around 70% (59381) of the inmates are either illiterate or only 10th pass and illiteracy can be one of the reasons of the crime.
Education is that weapon which can lead to overall development of the inmates. Educating them may reduce the repetition of crime by modifying their behavior and will also help to reduce the amount of contraband, such as drugs and weapons, smuggled into the prisons. Through the reading material available in the libraries they will able to know what is happening in the outer world leading to their social and mental stimulation. Prisoners who read are less likely to end up back behind bars. Reading may improve, inside and out of inmates, their body and as well as their mind and ultimately leading to upsurge their self-confidence.
Accordingly, to you what is the significance of Libraries in human development?
Library is a place where written knowledge is collected and some sort of repository is formed and it is a practice as old as civilization itself. The name for the repository eventually became the library. It is regarded as an agency through which sources of information of accumulated knowledge and experiences are selected, acquired, organized, preserved and disseminated to those who need them. Complete knowledge of human beings from their existence to till date is being preserved in the library. It is very important for man to preserve and maintain the valuable knowledge and information contained in the books and documents because we want to preserve our knowledge and wisdom for the coming generations. Libraries ensure that these records are preserved and made available for later use. In a way libraries form the basis for human development and provide access to the information to those who need this to work, play, learn, and govern.
How many Libraries established under your leadership so far?
I am fortunate enough that I am able to contribute a little to put forward the library mission. Till now RSSWLD has established 25 libraries (10 Libraries in Villages/Ashram, 3 Toy Libraries, 11 Jail Libraries including one library in women Jail and 1 Library at a Metro Station). All the libraries established by RSSWLD have been making a deep impact on the lives of the people.
What are the key learnings of Libraries in Jails movement?
Key learning while establishing Libraries in jail and enhancing the jail movement is that Libraries in prisons can play a vital role to enhance the literacy and education levels of the prisoners. Prisoners are humans and they should be treated as human. Their humanity is key to it as well. Prisoners live in jail and their physical world is limited to the prison premises and sometimes to the cell only. Now there in paradigm shift. Jails are no more places of punishment but they are now the places of rehabilitation. The main purpose of prisons today is to rehabilitate the people and send them back to society for which the importance of quality library services is invaluable. Prison inmates are cut off from the world and that is why it is more important to make information available to them in the prison itself. I find the libraries can have a deep impact on the inmates. Libraries are important not only during the term of a prisoner’s imprisonment but also when the prisoner is released back into society. This is especially true of prisoners who have spent a long time being imprisoned.
Do you have long-term vision for your social innovation?
Yes we do have long-term vision for your social innovation. RSSWLD wishes to open library in every jail India, provide access of information to every individual of India and contribute towards attaining 100% literacy rate in India via women empowerment and gender equality.
What kind of partnership is required to move forward?
To attain the Sustainable Development Goals lead by UNESCO every member of the society has to contribute. To achieve the complete women empowerment and gender equality, all the segments of the society should come forward. Library mission cannot go on without the contribution of one and all. RSSWLD looks forward to collaborate with other NGOs, individuals and even the Government agencies who can come together as a team to attain the aims and objectives laid by the Society.